Friday, June 13, 2008

My, How You've Grown...

(You should be humming the 10,000 Maniacs song while reading that title. If you aren't, then an overhaul of your musical tastes is in order.)

Sometimes I get frustrated with what seems like a glacially show progression in my artistic abilities. It's my nature to hide away and practice like a madman so I can emerge fully formed. Letting people see the rough edges is weakness! So one obstacle of mine is to suck it up and admit that I can't be perfect instantly. Sharing rough sketches on the blog is one way of involving the others in my artistic process. It's a sweet deal: I get therapy by blog and you don't have to read emo, navel-gazing crap. (Mostly.) You should be glad I am using this as a sketch blog and not a brain dump, for I *love* to complain about petty stuff. It's a hobby of mine.

Little things such as body proportions, unusual perspectives and where exactly spots and stripes should be placed confound me. Even though the clubhouse scenes in the debut arc barely show any background, I went through several drafts of potential floor plans so *I* would know. Characters that don't appear for over a year (or ever!) get fleshed out because I can't have them wandering around the background doing non-canon things! It's my neurotic, controlling nature to understand and control every little detail.

It's what happens when goal-oriented people are doing it wrong - I forget that skills and ideas need practice and development. Yeah, I love all these comics - but every one of them started off with raw visuals and underwent MASSIVE changes in their first few years. I *know* my characters are going to get sleeker and streamlined soon - and instead of enjoying the process and development, I WANT IT RIGHT NOW! My debut comic must look like an elite strip during years 5-10!

The strip I'm hung up on right now is one that features unusual perspectives (both character and setting), a challenge of character proportions (kids' heights in relation to an adult) and a house setting I have yet to design. I love to challenge myself, but I fear that if I fall short then I've got four panels of Peter Gabriel video.

But, hey, I have grown. I'm getting better every day and going back even two sketchbooks I can see a dramatic level of growth. Being an idiot, I look at that and say, "Gee, I'm still progressing too fast so I have to keep practicing until I get more consistency." Considering this post began with frustration over the perception of moving too SLOW, you can see the nasty cycle that appears.

Let's take a look at where I was one year ago and where I was one month ago...

A year back, I made my first attempt at producing Precocious strips. When I began I hadn't even designed all the characters (the first ever sketch of Jacob was presented as a character sheet for a critique) and I had no idea how to write for comics. I knew this, so I intentionally took on a story line that I could easily toss aside. It was to be a way to cut my teeth and get experience by doing instead of hiding myself in a sketch book all day.

The story focused around the Pingo family's first tour of the house they would soon call their home. The goal was to give a basic introduction to the characters. Bud and Jacob, having bugged the house, swoop in and abduct Autumn to give her the neighborhood tour while a strange real estate agent named Mr. Dobbs takes the elder Pingos around to meet the other Precocious parents.

It was awful. The drawing style was far too raw. My letting was atrocious. The comic timing was way off. Visually, the strips were too simple or too chaotic thanks to my lack of skill in juggling elements. I believe it went for 21 strips (out of a planned 42) before I gave up on it. It was so poor, the mountain of work I displayed for the critique was not enough to offset it. I got a B, which was a dagger in my heart.

What came from that attempt, however, was the experience I needed. While executing the test arc, I began scripting the arc that would become the debut story of Precocious. On one magical night, I sat down to draw and three new characters appeared on the page: Dionne Crup, Max Zeit and Suzette Grady. They emerged fully-formed and haven't changed at all aside from minor design tweaks. Once they existed, the entire storyline fell into place. It served as a perfect introduction for the kids AND, most importantly, it was actually FUNNY!

By sitting down and DOING the strip, I was able to learn HOW to draw the strip. Sitting back and practicing how to draw the strip means I might never DO it. It's time to suck it up and move forward.

Look how far I've come in a year. I chose the old strip with the best comic timing and matched it with a current strip I feel is a tad clunky. Click the images to see them full-size.

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